Healing and Hope Personified

Staff recall the wisdom and ways of Betty Ford—and how her example continues to light the way forward.
Mrs. Betty Ford
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We hope to carry the great legacy of Mrs. Ford forward, the passion she had for recovery.

Joanne Hawes

Smiles widen. Voices catch. Tears well up. Things get emotional when you ask Betty Ford Center staff to share a story or memory of Mrs. Ford. TOGETHER magazine asked employees to offer a glimpse into why Betty Ford was such a transformative presence for patients, families and staff—and how her example continues to light the way forward.

A Culture of Humility and Resilience

Jan Hart, Associate Director of Development
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

A long-time Betty Ford Center staff member, Hart's first visit to campus was in her role as Mrs. Ford's personal assistant.

"Mrs. Ford was gracious. She was kind to everybody. And when she was here, she wasn't 'Mrs. Ford.' She was 'Betty.' She was humble. She was resilient. She was strong. She was part of the campus, part of the culture. This was her second home." View Jan's full tribute.

A Source of Strength for Patients

Jerry Moe, National Director of the Children's Program, Emeritus
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Reaching out to young children and families with help and support was a priority for Mrs. Ford from the earliest days says Moe, who also experienced how deeply Mrs. Ford cared for patients.

"I happened to be walking across campus with Mrs. Ford one day when we ran into a group of patients. One patient told Mrs. Ford, 'You made it okay for me to ask for help.' Mrs. Ford smiled. Another patient said, 'You blazed a trail, and I'm following that path, the road to recovery.' Mrs. Ford thanked her. Then a patient went right up and hugged Mrs. Ford and said, 'You saved my life.' Everybody was crying at that point. Mrs. Ford held the patient for a while and then looked into her eyes and said, 'No, you're saving your life. Keep doing that one day at a time.'" View Jerry's full tribute.

Help for the Whole Family

Laurie Skochil, Assistant to the Vice President, California Region
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

As one of the longest-serving Betty Ford Center staff members, Skochil fondly recalls Betty Ford's compassion and connection with patients.

"Mrs. Ford would tell patients how proud she was that they were here and getting the help they needed. Mrs. Ford's commitment to services to treat the whole family impacted me personally when I attended the Family Program. I love that the Betty Ford Center continues to acknowledge that this is a family disease." View Laurie's full tribute.

Always Put Patients First

Joseph Skrajewski, National Director, Healthcare Solutions
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

An enormously grateful alumnus of the Betty Ford Center, Skrajewski returned to campus in 2008 to lead the pioneering medical and professional education programs.

"In the early days, I had the ultimate opportunity to meet Mrs. Ford—and it was like magic. I remember being in a room with Mrs. Ford and Dr. West, and hearing about her passions, hearing about her beliefs, hearing about how the patients always come first." View Joseph's full tribute.

A Strong Sense of Community

Joanne Hawes, Director of Clinical Services
Betty Ford Center

Hawes first stepped onto campus in 2004 as a patient and serves today as the Center's clinical director.

"I often still get goosebumps as I drive into work or walk into a building and have a memory of my own recovery journey starting here. In thinking about the future and how we can continue to best serve people … We hope to carry the great legacy of Mrs. Ford forward, the passion she had for recovery, making sure her legacy lives on through a new sense of community and recovery." View Joanne's full tribute.

Walking Together in Recovery

Joan Clark, Peer Recovery Support Specialist
Betty Ford Center

An alumna and decades-long employee of the Betty Ford Center, Clark recalls how Mrs. Ford made everyone she encountered feel seen, heard and special.

"I remember walking back to the main campus [after an alumni anniversary weekend] and a little voice behind me said, 'Joanie, wait up.' I turned around and it was Mrs. Ford. Walking together that day was a highlight of my recovery and my employment, to work with such a wonderful woman who has given hope and help to so many people." View Joan's full tribute.

Smiling with Pure Joy

Helene Photias, Executive Director of the Children's Program
Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

Photias tells the story behind a quilt that hangs in the Children's Program gathering area on campus, a gift to Mrs. Ford from a group of children who took part in the pioneering program.

"I was told that when Mrs. Ford was given the quilt, she sat in a chair, wrapped the quilt around her shoulders and smiled with pure joy. That's the image I see today every time I walk by that beautiful quilt. Mrs. Ford's courage, compassion and dedication have helped families heal for the past 40 years and will continue to heal generations to come."  View Helene's full tribute

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